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Abbott strikes down gas theft bill drafted by Dallas County DA amid flurry of vetoes

Courtney Collins
Senate Bill 467 would have raised the punishment for tampering with a retail gas pump to a third-degree felony. The bill's author, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, said it would have been a necessary effort to crack down on gas theft.

A Texas bill that would crack down on stealing gas from pumps was one of dozens vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott this week amid his efforts to put pressure on state lawmakers to focus on property tax relief in a special legislative session.

Senate Bill 467 would have made tampering with a gas station pump a third-degree felony, regardless of the amount of money lost from stealing gas.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot’s office wrote in a statement that it had drafted the bill and sent a version to the bill's author, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston.

But Abbott struck it down Wednesday, writing in his veto letter that SB 467 could be reconsidered in a future special session "only after property tax relief is passed."

But Bettencourt said he's unsure that will actually happen.

"We're going to be now late to the party cracking down on crime and specifically on these criminal rings that already know how to defraud gas stations and any type of fuel pump operation across the state," Bettencourt said.

Abbott also raised concerns in his veto letter that the bill would impose harsher penalties than "damaging the electric grid or cutting a livestock fence."

Gas station pumps monitor the flow of gas through what are known as pulsars. Those devices track that flow and allow the retailer to charge accordingly.

But the pulsars can be manipulated, and police and prosecutors say they’ve seen an uptick in pulsar manipulation devices. In some cases, people start the flow of gas by swiping a credit card or giving the cashier a small amount of cash, then activate the device once the fuel begins to flow. That causes the pulsar to stop sending information, according to the Texas comptroller’s office, which has targeted such cases using its criminal investigation division.

The result can be costly: hundreds of gallons of gas can be reduced to just pennies.

Manipulation devices have also been used on ATMs, and lawmakers passed a similar bill in 2021 to increase the penalty for breaking into a cash machine.

“You provided us tools before, and they have worked successfully,” assistant Dallas County DA Steven Fawcett said at a March Senate committee hearing. “We ask that you provide the tools again as crime has evolved."

Cutting property taxes was one of Abbott’s stated priorities during the 2023 regular legislative session, but House and Senate lawmakers failed to reach a compromise before the session ended last month.

That promoted a special session, which Abbott called with a specific goal of passing property tax relief. But the House and Senate again failed to reach an agreement.

As of Friday afternoon, Abbott had vetoed 31 bills, with more expected over the next two days before the signing deadline.

A common refrain among those vetoes was a line indicating property taxes were a priority, and that each bill could be reconsidered once tax relief was passed.

Creuzot’s office wrote Abbott's decision to veto was disappointing.

“If designated as an issue for consideration in a special session, we look forward to working with our legislative partners to stop and punish those who steal gasoline, thereby driving up prices for consumers and businesses,” the DA said.

Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at You can follow Toluwani on Twitter @tosibamowo.

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.